HIV and Addiction: Intertwined

graph1Though it is commonly known that injecting drugs and sharing needles can lead to HIV infection, it is also true that non-injection drug use contributes to HIV infection and can severely worsen symptoms of an HIV-infected individual. Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) make up the largest majority of new HIV infections (see below graph), at rates significantly higher than that of injection drug users. And we know that a major factor in the increased risk for this population is use of drugs such as alcohol and methamphetamine.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published a special website detailing the connections between HIV/AIDS and drug abuse, noting how drugs disrupt “the parts of the brain that people use to weigh risks and benefits when making decisions.”  For example, a person under the influence is more likely to engage in risky sex behaviors elevating their exposure to HIV.  In addition, it has been shown that drug use can increase viral loads, the amount of HIV virus found in the blood of HIV positive individuals. This not only affects an individual’s own health but increases their likelihood of transmitting HIV to others.

We know that treating addiction can help prevent the spread of HIV.  CBAM has multiple programs in place to address this “intertwined epidemic” of HIV/AIDS and addiction. Visit our UCLA Vine Street Clinic page to find out about our clinical trials and other services.


CBAM is a multidisciplinary center that seeks to advance the prevention and treatment of chronic illnesses, especially in communities with health disparities. As part of the UCLA Department of Family Medicine, CBAM works at the intersection of academia and community with a focus on treating addictions and preventing the spread of HIV.

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